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Friday 13 July 2012

Union Bashing Resumes In Ignorance

[Update at end of post]

Today, the Cabinet Office has begun a “consultation” on Trade Union facility time (document HERE [.pdf]), with minister Francis Maude seemingly still of the belief that this is somehow equivalent to the “Taxpayer funded Trade Unionism” concept so beloved of groups like the so-calledTaxpayers’ Alliance (TPA) and their fellow travellers somewhere out there on the right.

Union activity going on somewhere behind this facade

And travelling hopefully with their pals at the TPA are the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his tame gofer, the flannelled fool Henry Cole, at the Guido Fawkes blog, who hold to their belief that workplace representation means “union agitators”, a claim which they cannot and will not stand up, as it means nothing of the sort. The fact of the matter is rather more routine and unexciting.

Facility time, whether it involves full or part time representatives, is to do with workplace relations between employers and employees. That involves dealing with grievances, disciplinary matters, other complaints, training, any kind of restructuring or other change, and other often sensitive issues such as redundancy. The resulting payoff is an improvement in those relationships.

Unions? Er, yeah, sodding lefties who won't buy me drinks

So what does facility time not mean? Well, sadly for the Laurel and Hardy of the blogosphere, it does not mean more or less everything that they claim it does: it does not involve “union agitators”, and nor does it mean arranging strikes, demonstrations, work to rules, sit-ins or other occupations, picketing or any other kind of protests, or indeed any kind of party political activity.

That groups like the TPA and their cheerleaders like the Fawkes blog assert that at least some of those activities take place during facility time tells you all you need to know about their relationship with honesty and accuracy, which is tenuous and fleeting at best, and non-existent at worst, which latter is the situation for most of the time. So what do the various parties have to back up their claims?

I don't need to understand unions, 'cos I'm on telly!

UNISON has commissioned non-profit group NatCen Social Research to produce the report The Value of Trade Union Facility Time (full report HERE [.pdf] and summary HERE [.pdf]). The TPA failed to engage with either employee or employer organisations, relying instead of Freedom of Information (FoI) fishing expeditions and concluding pejoratively that Facility Time was “Taxpayer Funded Trade Unionism”.

And what of the Fawkes blog? Their best shot has been a welter of abuse, reinforced by a clearly ideological stance that sees anything called “unions” as something to be attacked first, and understood later by someone else. That Maude has not figured out how he is going to eliminate facility time – enshrined in law by a Conservative Government – has not occurred to them.

So expect an ignorance based campaign from the right-wingers to continue.

[UPDATE 14 July 1230 hours: the ignorance-based campaign has also been joined at ConservativeHome, where an (unsigned) article, possibly by Harry Phibbs (he does?), which includes this priceless paragraph:

"[the consultation] makes a distinction between trade union duties (such as representation at disciplinary hearings) and more general trade union activities (I suppose such as campaigning for and helping to finance the Labour Party)".

"I suppose"? Hell's teeth, the clown who wrote this can't even be bothered to find out what he's shooting his mouth off about before committing his lack of thoughts to paper. This tells you all you need to know about this campaign.

What is yet more revealing, though, is that none of the papers, not even the Maily Telegraph, are majoring on this story today, or in many cases even reporting it. Must try harder, lads]

1 comment:

John Ruddy said...

My facility time is generally involved in representing members in meetings with the employer - in sickness cases, grievances and disciplinary cases.

Now, if an employee is not a member of the union, they can ask for another employee to assist them. So either way - the time is given up - whether to a union rep like me, who will work within the policies, procedures and the law, or an ordinary employee who fancies himself as Perry Mason.